Friday, March 9, 2007

What Causes Heart Disease?

The most common cause of heart disease in a person with diabetes is hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrition to the heart.

This build up usually begins before the increase in blood sugars that occurs in type 2 diabetes. In other words, heart disease almost always has established itself prior to the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

These cholesterol plaques can break apart or rupture, causing blood clots and blocking the blood vessel. This can lead to a heart attack. The same process can happen in all of the arteries in the body, resulting in lack of blood to the brain, causing a stroke or lack of blood to the feet, hands or arms causing peripheral vascular disease.

People with diabetes are also at higher risk for heart failure, a condition in which the heart is not able to pump blood adequately. This can lead to fluid build-up in the lungs that causes difficulty breathing, or fluid retention in other parts of the body (especially the legs) that causes swelling.

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